Two cases of the Omicron OVID-19 virus were detected in the U.K. England has ordered PCR testing and mask wear to be resumed.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of England, stated that face coverings would be mandatory in shops and public transport throughout England during a nationally televised press conference.
Even though England has relaxed the mask requirement in July, it is still required for all public transport within Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other areas. The devolved administrations are separate from England.
“On face coverings, what we’re looking at is retail and transport, and just getting back to a position where you have to wear them in in retail settings or on our public transport,”Johnson said.
Although it isn’t immediately clear whether masks are required for cultural venues such as theaters and cinemas, the U.K. Health department will soon clarify this.
International travellers arriving in the U.K. must also undergo a PCR test within two days of arrival. Once the results are received, they will need to self-isolate. No matter what their status in vaccination, those who are positive for the virus must be kept in quarantine for ten consecutive days.
“We’re not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that, we’re not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the U.K. to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result,”Johnson said. “We need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the U.K., because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together.
The Prime Minister said that plans to increase the booster jab for vaccines for people who have been double vaccinated will be intensified.
“We don’t yet exactly know how effective our vaccines will be against Omicron but we have good reasons for believing they will provide at least some measure of protection,”Johnson said.
“If you’re boosted, your response is likely to be stronger so it’s more vital than ever that people get their jabs and we get those boosters into arms as fast as possible.”
Six million jabs are planned for the next three week. The U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is looking at administering boosters to a wider age group and reducing the gap between the second dose and booster, which is currently six months.
The new variant with the scientific name B.1.1.529 was first discovered in South Africa. It has since been detected in the U.K at Nottingham and Brentwood.
South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are on the U.K.’s travel red list, meaning that arrivals must quarantine for 10 days and undergo PCR tests.
This variant has been also detected in Israel, Hong Kong (Italien), and Germany.